Why Globalization and Democracy sucks

So, I just spent a sleepless night with my crying wife. She wanted to know why everything good gets taken away from us. So here’s the back story. We’re United Methodists - a happy, big-tent denomination that generally likes other people. Since the backlash against the sexual revolution in the 70s, we have been officially anti-gay marriage. It sucks, but the good news is that pretty much we ignored it. It got put in the laws in the 70s, but mostly pastors and churches sort of winked and nodded at it, but went ahead marrying gay people anyway.

Since this has been going on, they decided to try and get rid of that language. The bishops all got together and came up with a plan called ‘The One Church Plan’ that would allow clergy and churches who wanted to to have gay pastors and marry gay people to be able to do so. Those who didn’t want to do so were free not to do so. Yay for us. Everyone wins right? The bishops tried to sell the idea to everyone and it looked promising.

Enter why globalization and democracy suck. The United Methodist Church is not a dictatorship. We’re a ground-up democracy. Bishops make recommendations, but they don’t get a vote on matters. Basically, every member gets to vote for a delegate to represent them at a conference. That conference then elects a delegate to represent them at a General Conference. The General Conference is what gets to decide. The number of delegates for each conference is based on the number of members within your conference. So, my conference gets six voting members, Scandinavia has very few United Methodists, so it gets 2, Democratic Republic of Congo has a ton of members, so they get like 50. You see where I’m going with this. Due to the fact that in the US membership is falling and in Asia and Africa it’s growing like crazy, the US and Europe have about half of all votes and Asia and Africa have the other half.

Africans (and I love Africa and Africans) suck the root. The entire root. Prior to this General Conference, they had their own African meeting and decided to support something called ‘The Traditional Plan’ which not only reaffirms the stance against gay marriage, but calls for active enforcement of the prohibitions against it. They want immediate expulsion of all gay clergy and any clergy who have solemnized gay marriages. They then decided to vote as a bloc. Africans represent about 1/3 of all delegates, so they allied with Asian conferences. The US is about 75% in favor of opening it up to gay marriages, but the African and Asian bloc is so united that they steamrolled the conversation. They wouldn’t even allow the ‘One Church Plan’ up for a vote.

The kicker of course is that the conferences own all church property, so if we want to split from the main body, basically the Africans and Asians that are left would own our churches. One of the delegates from Liberia basically told us to sod off and he didn’t want to be united with people who denied the ‘truth.’

Soo… screw you Africa. Our church has tons of gay and lesbian couples so why do you get to tell them that they’re in error? While I’m on the subject, screw you Americans and Europeans who stopped coming to church and gave the Global South the power to do this crap and then you’ll sit around and complain about how hateful we are.

Well quit. I though the whole Protestant things was a relationship with your god outside of a clerical hierarchy. You object to the current leadership stance, which is effectively the your church’s official position on human sexuality. You disagree, and I assume you believe your god would support your position. So leave.

Unless it isn’t for the doctrine, but for the people around you. Then stay.

News Flash: Religious organization turns into self-righteous persecution machine. Do you really need to be told to denounce and actively fight that machine or walk away?

That of course is the joy of any anarcho-communist like grouping. You can always find another grouping. The problem is of course that there are cons to that stance. An abandonment basically gives fringe groups complete control of the organization with no mediating force. That’s really what has been happening. Liberals in the west have dropped out and so you’re left with the people with enough grit to stick it out which tend to be conservatives.

The second is that there are pros and cons to the church as a whole. Do I become a single-issue person where basically gay marriage defines the whole of my identity? As a general rule, the church is a happy, lovey-dovey type of place. The leadership is left-leaning. The messages tend to be about social justice and inclusion. We give refugees sanctuary and march against wage inequality. Even the African Church is left-leaning for Africa, they’re dealing with laws that make it difficult for them to advocate for homosexuality and they’re dealing with the same pulls that we have in the US where conservatives want to abandon their churches for Fundamentalist and Evangelical Churches, so they feel that being in communion with churches that accept gay clergy is going to hurt them and push their people into Fundamentalism.

What it really boils down to is that people suck. We as human beings like to talk a big game about inclusiveness and love, but that’s not what people want. They want their tribes and they want their enemies. The emotional high of ‘winning’ and ‘us vs them’ groupings are powerful pulls that dominate our social lives. Leaving the church is just cementing the worldview of finding my own ‘tribe’ rather than learning to live within a diverse community. Is abandoning them just basically saying that they’re right? That I value ‘winning’ on this issue more than I value their basic humanity and desire to influence change. Do I place my opinion on a pedestal above theirs? I guess that I’m only saying that ‘It’s complicated.’

If that’s what you get out of it. What’s really happening is a culture clash. Africans don’t have the same issues with homosexuality that the West does. They are dealing with much different cultural baggage where they regard many messages from the West as coming from a position of exploitation. To them, homosexuality is simply another Western decadence trying to impose it’s own cultural norms on the rest of the world. They are more likely to see it as a neo-colonialism where Western cultures are once more lecturing them on how ‘backwards’ they are and how their culture needs to change to become more Western. It’s not an attractive message to them.

I was in Malawi just before the mid-2000s famine. Western aid workers were handing out condoms to suppress AIDS transmission. Headmen from villages were gathering them and burning them because they were saying that it was a white plot to lower their population so that their land could be stolen. True story.

When you’re dealing with the mindset that Europeans are an exploiter, they regard messages from the West with heavy suspicion. They see homosexuality as another means to fracture their societies and destroy their culture for the sake of a more easily manipulated Western culture. The leadership in the church doesn’t see it that way of course, but it’s the people that have the votes and they do see it that way. It’s very difficult to change their minds when dealing with that cultural baggage.


Why do you want to be part of something so large? It seems like once you have an organization with more than a dozen or so people, let alone a group that spans the entire planet, you start fostering distractions like politics and culture clashes.

Precisely because it is so large. When you have these culture clashes, both sides can grow and change. We’ve been together now for 50 years, but the larger church body stretches back to the 1700s and there have been many, many culture clashes. This isn’t the first one, nor will it be the last. When you have these clashes in an organization that preaches tolerance and love for the other, you have dialogue and a chance for change. A church is less about win and lose and more about relational community. My hope is that those from the Global South will see the pain this is causing us and maybe their minds will change just a little bit. Maybe not a lot and certainly not at first, but maybe 10 years from now their government is arguing about decriminalizing homosexuality and they’ll say, “Wow, those people from my church aren’t bad people. They are passionate and loving people. Maybe criminalizing gay people isn’t a good thing.” and they can put pressure on their governments.

I can change as well. I can look at their position and rather than simply saying ‘Africans are a bunch of bigots.’ I can understand why they hold their views. Like I said, I know many Africans and they are good people who want to do right. They aren’t evil monsters. They aren’t coming from a place of hate, but a place with different cultural mores and their own challenges. Their position hurts me, but maybe I can understand it more. I think that these dialogues are very valuable. I think that people abandoning these large cross-cultural institutions is not a good thing for the world. Simply turning inward and choosing your own little tribe that nods along in unison is not healthy for society in my mind and I don’t think it’s what I want to do.

Is Africa really the issue here? Isn’t the person who came up with/pushed the Traditional Plan a Russian?

As I understand it, it came out of the Commission on the Way Forward, a committee of laity and clergy specifically tasked with coming up with a solution to the issue. The Commission as a whole did not endorse the plan, but a subset of the group came up with it and advanced it. I could probably take a couple of wild guesses as to which ones it was, but I don’t know that I actually saw any press releases regarding the specific members that endorsed it. There were no Russians on the Commission and very few Russian United Methodists (about 2000 of the 12 million or so United Methodists total), so it would be odd if it were a Russian that formulated it though I suppose not impossible.

The issue with Africa is that they essentially bloc voted. It’s true that there were certainly American and European supporters of the Traditional Plan, but they didn’t vote as blocs. What happened is that Africa was about 1/3 of the delegation and they all voted for the Traditional Plan. The Phillippines was another 1/8 or so and combined, those two groups basically made the math impossible to overcome.

Somehow I doubt the OP would be objecting if the shoe were on the other foot - if American membership opposed gay marriage but a large number of voting United Methodist members from, say, Europe and Canada out-voted the American opposition and made gay marriage prevail. You can’t say that “globalization and democracy suck” if it means you didn’t get the outcome you wanted; it’s a double-edged sword and cuts both ways.
Edit: Zero snark intended

This is how schisms happen, and it sounds like you are headed for one.

Also, the description of what is going on in the United Methodist church is not what I expected from the thread title. Globalization is about worldwide economic trade, not the colonization of a religion to every continent. I guess democracy applies here, but is normally talked about as an attribute of government.

Of course, I’m just mad that my side lost. :slight_smile: If I were anti-gay marriage, I’d be saying that the system works. In this case though, I’m not really railing against globalization. I talked above about its value, but in this particular case, it really, really sucks.

As to your edit, I would say that the jury is still out (and I would theorize always will be). Globalization movements of the 20th century were largely led by Northern and Western countries and largely in opposition to communism. The people with the money and power were liberal nations. Those movements did indeed lead to a more liberal world order, but that is an artifact of a moment in time and not some sort of requirement of the nature of humanity. There’s no inherent reason that globalization has to favor liberal, western values. We can already see far right backlashes in those countries and the global reach of China is encouraging more state-controlled authoritarian systems. As we watch the relative demographic and economic decline of the northern and western countries, we’ll be able to assess more fully what the impacts of 21st century globalization will bring. I personally think we’ll see a pendulum swing against the West and liberal values, but I’ve admitted many times before that I’m the epitome of eternal pessimist.

Globalization is simply social organizations (whether explicitly organized or implicitly so) acting on a global rather than national scale. It is frequently used in economics and that’s what people focus on because they’re scared of people ‘stealing’ their jobs, but doesn’t have to be. Globalization also refers to cultural and political systems as well. One could say that the SDMB is a globalized institution since we are not confined to a particular country or even region.

Democracy is a system of governance, but governance doesn’t only apply to nation states. The UM church is an organization with a government. It has three branches, an Executive Branch chosen by the Legislative Branch, the Legislative Branch itself and a Judicial Branch. All are elected and directly accountable to their members. It’s a classic representational democracy. It does have an issue in that there is not a true separation of powers since the Legislative Branch appoints the other two Branches, but in practice and based on norms of conduct it works as well as most governing bodies.

Anyway, this is getting off-topic. If the thread title is confusing, the mods can change it. It won’t bug me.

As for schisms, that’s unfortunately a possible and maybe even probable outcome. The plans have already put measures in place for conferences and churches to break away since there are some that almost certainly won’t abide by this decision. We might see a Northern and Western US/European Church emerge from a southern US/African/Asian main body.

Now extrapolate that culture clash in your church to the world as a whole. People really didn’t understand the impact and the backlash that globalization was going to have.

Your focus on economic globalism seems to suffer from a “recency bias”. Colonialism by religions is as much a longer term driver than economic globalization. The other edge of the sword of colonialism is that now the former heathens that you’ve converted are fellow citizens, and as you can see, contribute their own opinions. Be careful what you wish for?

I am saddened as to what has occurred in the UMC General Conference. I’m an ELCA Lutheran, so I was on the side of those who wanted the One Church plan (it’s kind of what the ELCA decided in 2009). Unfortunately it looks as though that the schism the UMC has tried to avoid is coming. I hope y’all (and my friends who are UMC) end up ok after all this.

Is this a big part of the problem? How did you get to this position? Are other worldwide churches in a similar position? Googling suggests that there’s variation among denominations, and controversy about ownership.

How dare these black and brown people actually have opinions and vote for them. They should let white people like you do their thinking for them like they did back in the good old days. I’m sure John Wesley is rolling over in his grave at the thought of his church not following the latest politically correct fad.

Equal rights is a “politically correct fad” to you?
That is sad.